Bush would veto withdrawal plan: White House


Published: Thursday March 8, 2007

US President George W. Bush would veto legislation, crafted by Democrats, calling for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by late 2008, the White House said Thursday.

"Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looks like what was described today," senior Bush adviser Dan Bartlett told reporters as the president traveled to Brazil.

Earlier, Democrats directly challenged Bush on the strategy for the war, outlining a plan to pull US troops out by late 2008 or much sooner if progress is not made in the violence-wracked country.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill, which includes a timetable for redeployment long resisted by the White House, would "hold the Iraqi government accountable" for improved security and political conditions.

"It calls for the strategic redeployment of US combat troops some time in 2008, only then can we refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan," which she said was an "unfinished and nearly forgotten war," she said.

From Bush's official airplane, Bartlett fired back: "What we're seeing here is an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington, not conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq."

The bill requires Bush to certify Iraq has made meaningful and substantial progress in meeting benchmarks by July 1, and October 1, this year.

If those benchmarks are met, troops must begin immediate redeployment on March 1 next year and the withdrawal must be complete within 180 days.

In the unlikely event that Bush certified no progress was being made in Iraq on July 1, or October 1, the redeployment would have to begin immediately.

The White House charged that the plan reflected tensions inside the Democratic party between those who want to cut off funding for the unpopular war and those who seek less severe alternatives.

"It is apparent, once you look at the details of this proposal, that the chief aim of Democratic leaders is to get democrats happy, rather than the more important goal of providing the funding and flexibility generals need to succeed in their mission in Iraq," said Bush spokesman Tony Snow.

"It would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground," warned Bartlett. "It's safe to say it's a non-starter for the president."

Amid sustained deadly violence in the capital despite a much-trumpeted new US-led crackdown, US national security adviser Stephen Hadley pleaded for patience with the operation and said it would take months to see results.

"There are some positive signs. The Iraqis seem to be showing up and stepping up," he said. "The bad guys are going to try to derail this thing with violence. It's going to be some months before we're really going to know how this is working."